Our member spotlight is on Thomas Renner (he/him)! He has been in Vermont for 17 years and can be found at councilorrenner on Instagram.
When Thomas wasn’t originally planning to run for Winooski City Council, he explored running for it when he learned about the seat. When he realized he could help his community and neighbors more by serving on Council instead of on Winooski’s Safe, Healthy and Connected People Commission, he decided to run. Now, Thomas is the Deputy Mayor of Winooski!
In this spotlight, Thomas reflects on his deep ties to Vermont, the significance of BIPOC representation through organizations like VT PoC, his unexpected journey into local politics, and more.
Tell us a bit about your background before arriving in VT and what brought you to the state.
I have had a relationship with Vermont for a long time, my parents are divorced and my father has lived in Vermont since I was kid, so I spent many of my summer and winter breaks coming to Vermont. But I moved to Vermont after graduating high school, until then I had lived in Spain and before that in England. I attended the University of Vermont and have never left since.
Why are you a member of the Vermont Professionals of Color Network?
I am so impressed by the work that Vermont Professionals of Color is doing for the BIPOC community and for the betterment of Vermont. I have been a full believer in the power of representation, and it’s amazing that VT PoC has created an environment for representation to flourish.
What do you enjoy about living in Vermont? What do you enjoy about working in Vermont?
More and more what I love about Vermont is the sanity in comparison to other parts of the country. I enjoy the way of life, not too fast paced and still people focused. And of course, Vermont is just so beautiful. I enjoy the level of professionality and how folks try to champion each other, there are lots of opportunities to learn and connect.
What advice would you have wanted to receive about being a VT professional of color before arriving?
Vermont is very small, there are not as many jobs available as folks may be used to, and a lot of those jobs are obtained via networking and not applications.
What are some challenges that you’ve faced on a professional level since living in VT?
My professional career has only existed in Vermont, but one thing I still find a challenge is entering a room and very frequently, being the only person of color, somehow it is never less garing.
How have you overcome the challenges?
One practice I do, is just reminding myself that I will likely be the only person of color in the room. I hope the work VT PoC and others are doing will result in many more BIPOC faces in those rooms.
What was the reason you decided to run for Winooski City Council?
I had not originally planned on running for Winooski City Council, I had not finished my term on Winooski’s Safe, Healthy and Connected People Commission when I learned about the seat, Rep Hal Colston asked if I had thought of running (it was his seat that was opening up) and when we had that conversation I decided to explore running, I ultimately decided to run as I realized I could help my community and neighbors more by serving on Council instead of on the Commission.
What opportunities do you see for your industry in the future?
I hope that more BIPOC folks will run for public office on all levels of the ballot. Government should be a good representation of the populis, and with more and more BIPOC people in Vermont, it will be important to see that reflected in our legislative bodies.
In what ways could the state better support BIPOC living in Vermont?
On a whole I think that white Vermonters need to understand how they can make members of the BIPOC community feel like Vermont is their home too. I experience microaggressions far more frequently in 2024 in Vermont than most non BIPOC people would think, for BIPOC new to Vermont, that could be really shocking and deterring.
Are there other things (events/opportunities/jobs/etc) you’d like to share with the VT BIPOC community?
Volunteer in your community, most towns and cities have commissions or advisory committees that people can join if running for office isn’t your thing!